Malaysia posted overall tourism growth in 2012, with arrivals rising to 25,032,708, compared to 24,714,324 in 2011, a year-over-year increase of 1.3 percent. Meanwhile, receipts climbed to RM60.6 billion, compared to RM58.3 billion the previous year, which was an increase of RM2.3 billion or 3.9 percent.

Minister of Tourism Dato Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen attributed the growth to the government’s strong support in recognizing tourism as an important economic driver as well as the concerted efforts of trade and media partners to market and brand Malaysia as a tourist destination.

Tourist arrivals from U.S. rose to 240,134 in 2012, compared to 216,755 in 2011, up 10.8 percent. Tourist arrival from Canada posted a growth of 1.1 percent, from 86,015 in 2011 to 86,931 in 2012.

Under Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Program (ETP), tourism has been identified as one of 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) to drive the nation’s economic growth. Since then, a number of tourism development projects have been put in place in order to achieve 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion tourism receipts by 2020.

Among the tourism initiatives undertaken last year were the physical transformation of the Bukit Bintang-Kuala Lumpur City Centre to improve the shopping experience, the opening of several new tourist attractions including Asia’s first Legoland, as well as the hosting of several business and international events.

To further capitalize on Malaysia’s consistent tourism growth, as well as the expected surge of tourists to the Asia Pacific area over the next few years, Malaysia is embarking on an intensive promotional campaign this year that will culminate in the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 (VMY 2014) when the nation expects to welcome 28 million tourists.

“We are on track towards meeting our long-term targets and we hope that the VMY 2014 and the promotional campaign this year will significantly boost our tourism performance,” said Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen.